I think about the messages I got growing up and how they shaped me. As a girl, the primary one was this:
You're just as good as a boy and you can be anything you want to be.
Right on! Well, almost. We're so focused on what we want to be when we grow up, and the greatness we will attain. We head off to college, earn our degrees, start careers that put us on the path to manager, partner, business owner. And then what?
We've proved we're just as good as the boys, but for many of us, there's a pesky thing called a biological clock. And being a stay at home mom now sort of feels like quitting. The boys don't quit work just because they became dads. But how do we balance being that mom who sends in homemade cupcakes and the executive who answers client e-mails at 10 pm? How do we continue with our creative outlets so we don't lose our souls in the process of becoming just as great as our male co-workers?
I'm not sure there is a right answer. Everyone's paths will be different naturally. But what I do know is that through time, subtle messages get pounded into our heads until we've set unattainable standards for ourselves. Yes, girls, you CAN do or be anything. But you can't be it all at the same time. That's the part of the message that gets left out. You can make partner in your law firm, but that means you can't work part time and attend all your kid's school plays. You can be an awesome writer/artist/musician in your spare time, but you won't be the world's best spouse if that's where you're channeling your passion.
As authors, we love writing these "kick butt" heroines who save the world and get the boy. After all, it makes for a good and entertaining story. But what happens to their school work while they're off battling demons? What about their family relationships? Are they simply not as important? Not to our story lines perhaps, but I wonder if we aren't perpetuating the myth that our girls can be everything all at once when we downplay the crucial elements of our everyday lives.
Maybe not. I'm no psychology major and I, as a writer, haven't ever given the subtle messages I'm sending that much thought. But maybe I should. As a victim of society's subtle pressures myself, maybe I ought to be more cautious about what I put out into the world. And just like everything else, find a balance between good story telling and good living.
What do you think??